The Colombian government announced on May 14 that four members of the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) including the left-wing terrorist armed group’s commander had been neutralized by units of the Colombian Military Forces, in coordination with the National Police and with the support of the Attorney General’s Office. “Alias Mocho Tierra was considered a high-value target and was involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts against the civilian population and the Armed Forces,” said Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, who also released a video of the operation in the Montecristo rural area of Bolívar department during a press conference.
According to Trujillo, the bombing was a joint operation between the Air Force, Army troops, and the Police. Alias Mocho Tierra, whose real identity was not disclosed, was in charge of drug trafficking and illegal mining that generated monthly revenues of about $1 million. “Alias Mocho Tierra, was an ELN member for nearly three decades and participated in a 1999 kidnapping of airline passengers,” Trujillo said.
In March, the ELN announced a month-long ceasefire beginning April 1 as the country grappled with a rise in coronavirus cases. The government of President Iván Duque put preliminary talks on a peace deal on hold after the terrorist group killed 22 people and injured many more in a car bombing in January 2019 at the General Santander Police Academy in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, AFP and several other news agencies reported.
The group renewed attacks following the ceasefire, with the Army blaming it for a series of bombings against oil pipelines, according to Reuters. Colombian government official statistics indicate that the ELN has some allegedly 2,000 combatants, who during the years have been involved in kidnappings, forced recruitment of minors, and the use of landmines. The group operates in about 10 percent of the country, and is much smaller than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which signed a landmark peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016.